The British public are overwhelmingly more interested in finding out about leaving the European Union (EU) than remaining within it, data from Google has shown, with immigration being the most searched referendum-related topic.
Millions of Britons have taken to the search engine to find out more about the referendum on EU membership and the arguments being put forward by both sides over the last few months. But data released by Google has shown that in the last seven days at least, Leave has consistently attracted more interest than Remain.
Searches for both campaigns peaked on June 9 at around 9pm, likely spurred on by the ITV debate between the two camps taking place at that time. The Leave campaign, represented by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, Labour MP Gisela Stuart and Tory MP Andrea Leadsom was widely acknowledged to have won that debate.
Interest in both campaigns faded away following the debate, but searches for Leave have been steadily rising as the referendum date, June 23, draws nearer.
Linking the search data to geographic location shows that interest in the Leave campaign is scattered throughout the UK, with hotspots in all four corners of the country. Many districts show that an astonishing 100 per cent of searches were for Leave, including Edinburgh in Scotland, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, and Camden in London.
Leave searches outnumbered Remain searches in all but ten of the UK’s 256 districts.
The number one most asked question on the EU referendum was: “What is Brexit?” The next three are questions on: who can vote; how to vote; and when the vote will be held.
And in a sign that pollsters and political pundits may have been doing a lot of Googling, the fifth most popular question is: “Will Brexit happen?” Google answers that one by offering links to articles speculating on what might happen after a Brexit.
In another sign that the Leave campaign is having the most cut-through, immigration – the key issue for the Leave campaign – has almost consistently topped the list of topics associated with searches on the referendum. Meanwhile the Remain campaign’s hot topic, the economy, has slipped from second place in February to third place today, having been edged out by the Leave campaign’s second big issue, the NHS.
Sovereignty and national security have remained steadfastly in fourth and fifth place respectively.
And the figures leading the campaigns have also attracted a lot of interest, with speculation as to how their careers will be affected, amongst other issues.
Of the Prime Minister David Cameron, the British people most wanted to know whether he would step down following the vote. They were also interested in knowing why he called the referendum in the first place, and his views on both staying in and leaving the EU.
Boris Johnson, a key figurehead of the Leave campaign, has also attracted much attention, with people most wanting to know whether he would be the next Prime Minister. This may reflect the fact that the Leave campaign made much of his Prime Ministerial ambitions during the ITV debate in an attempt to scupper his credibility on the arguments.
The public also want to know whether Mr. Johnson will be visiting Wales during the referendum campaign.
The results of the Google searches can’t be taken as an indication of which way people will vote, but they do reflect the much higher levels of interest in the Leave campaign shown by the general public in comparison to their Remain rivals.